Living in Thailand and being able to train every single morning is something I find myself thankful for every day. I get to wake up and go straight to doing what I love, without having to think about anything else first. I often think of how lucky I am to have such an amazing opportunity. Nevertheless, there are some mornings when I don’t feel quite so enthusiastic about it. It doesn’t happen often, but there have been mornings where from the very moment that I woke up for training, something in my body wasn’t co-operating. In an ideal world, I’d spring out of bed as soon as my alarm went off every morning, but in reality, there are sometimes occasions when as much as I want to get up and train, my body just says ‘no’.
The last time I had a day like this was just before I was due to head to the UK for my last fight. Even shadow boxing was a challenge. My arms felt ten times heavier than normal, and throwing them seemed like far too much effort. Bag work was equally frustrating, as no matter how much I wanted to, I just couldn’t summon the energy to exert any real force onto the bag. My technique was sloppy, I had no power, and I wasn’t getting anywhere. Fortunately, this is a feeling that I’ve now come to recognise. I usually get this shortly before a fight, when I’ve been training non-stop for a weeks or months on end and it finally starts to take its toll on my body.
The first time this happened to me, just before my first fight, I was totally confused and frustrated. Where had all my energy gone when I really needed it? Why wasn’t my body doing what I wanted it to do? I’d been eating, drinking, training and sleeping exactly the same way I was before, so what had changed? Now, I know that my body had just been overloaded, and this was nothing to worry about. Not only that, but now that I’ve experienced this a few times, I also know that this usually means that I’m going to peak soon. Without fail, every single time this has happened to me, I’ve come back at my absolute best shortly after. My stamina seemed better, my technique was back on form, and everything seemed to fall into place. After that, I felt ready to fight.
While the love and passion I feel for Muay Thai never waiver, there is an ebb and flow of feelings in my training process. There are times when I feel absolutely on top of my game, and others when I feel totally and utterly defeated. For the most part, I feel like I’m improving every day, and I know that even the times when I’m getting my ass handed to me and I’m feeling terrible are fundamental to my growth and progression.
In the same way that my emotional response to training fluctuates, my physical response does, too. This is why I get those infrequent occasions when I just feel that I have no energy at all. During those times, I have to remind myself that it’s only normal, when you consider the intensity of the things you have to put your body through in order to be a fighter. This is even more relevant to those who are juggling fighting with full-time jobs. As someone who works six days per week as well as training to fight, I am no stranger to feeling burnt-out. It can be really frustrating when I do start to hit that point, and my body just isn’t working as it should, especially as at this stage, I’m usually close to a fight. However, it seems to be an inevitable occurrence that I just have to deal with. I usually find that taking the following morning off does the trick, and immediately after that, I’m able to come back at full force. Training is addictive, and taking even one session off can make you feel restless, guilty or lazy, but the importance of rest and recovery should not be underestimated. All in all, you have to listen to your body and know that sometimes, if it’s telling you to take a step back, it’s OK to do so. While powering through might usually be the best way, ‘rest’ is not a swear word, and it’s important to recognise when to take it.
As a fighter, you picture yourself as being an unstoppable force, training like an absolute machine non-stop. You fantasise about being some kind of beast who smashes everything that comes their way with every session and every fight. Unfortunately, that just isn’t always the case. In fact, a training process without having to push through those barriers of frustration and exhaustion wouldn’t make much of a fighter at all. Training has its peaks and troughs, and in my experience, when you’re in a trough, that usually means that you’re just about to hit a peak. On that note, here’s a humorous anecdote from Ricky Gervais: